Neem Oil – Garden Benefits

By Jul 28, 2023 No Comments

Neem Oil – Garden Benefits

Gardeners have several best friends. You may have a favorite pair of gardening gloves, boots that stand up to any amount of muck and mud, or a trusty shovel that’s been with you since the beginning. Is neem oil on your list? If it isn’t, maybe it’s time to change that!

If you’ve had issues with pests or some unwanted intruders in your garden bed, you know the struggle of getting rid of them. It may even be tempting to resort to chemicals to get the job done, but there’s another way! Keep reading to see everything it can do for you and your garden. By the end, you’ll know why this versatile, powerful natural pesticide does a better job than grabbing something harsh and unfriendly to the environment.

What is Neem Oil?

Neem oil comes from the neem tree. These trees are native to the Indian subcontinent but may grow in several areas of the world, including the southern US. It’s a hardy plant capable of thriving in many soil and climate conditions. Because the neem tree has a history of being accessible in so many places, humans used neem oil in a variety of ways for hundreds of years.

The oil is yellowish in color (though it’s sometimes darker and closer to brown) and has somewhat of a garlic scent.

How Does It Help Plants?

Neem oil helps combat two of the biggest dangers to your garden – pests and disease.  It is primarily used as a pesticide, as its natural properties make it well-suited for the task. However, it’s also an excellent partner in fighting certain diseases and infections like powdery mildew.

Let’s take a look at the different types of insects and pests that neem oil helps prevent or combat.

  • Aphids
  • Nematodes
  • Mealybugs
  • Whiteflies
  • Scale
  • Gnats
  • Moths
  • Cabbage worms
  • And more!

This wonderful oil may even help with certain alarming insects like cockroaches and termites, too, so it covers a lot of the most active invaders from the insect kingdom. Just looking at the list above, it’s easy to see why it’s useful for any gardener.

But neem oil’s work doesn’t stop with pests. It also battles these types of diseases and helps restore your garden to glory.

  • Powdery mildew
  • Black spot
  • Rust
  • Anthracnose

Any one of these issues is tough to get rid of, and it’s possible to lose a whole crop to pests or diseases. You can use the oil as a preventative, hopefully keeping unwanted intruders from settling in, to begin with, or use it as part of your response to an ongoing problem. If you’ve ever seen aphids descend on a tomato plant or lettuce, you’ll know the sort of damage even one infestation may cause. Failing to address it could mean losing your whole season’s worth of work.

How Does Neem Oil Work?

Azadirachtin is one of the primary components of neem oil. It works as a powerful insect repellant thanks to its ability to interfere with their hormone system. Consequently, neem oil prevents insects from feeding and breeding, which eventually leaves them to die off. If applied directly, neem oil may also simply smother pests.

For fungal infections like powdery mildew, neem oil works best as a preventative. It keeps spores from germinating and working into the leaf. If you use it immediately upon noticing the first signs of an infection, it may be early enough for neem oil intervention to stop further spread, too.

Is It Safe?

Neem oil has protected crops and plants for centuries, and it’s still around today. It’s quite safe for most plants, though take care when applying it to any plant that’s already highly distressed. If you’re concerned, and especially if you intend to use neem oil as a preventative and aren’t worried about an active infestation or ongoing disease, you can test it on a small part of the plant first. Apply it to one leaf and check back. If there are no signs of burning, you’re good to go. In general, it’s quite safe for plants. It wouldn’t have lasted so long otherwise!

As far as people, pets, and wildlife go, it is almost completely non-toxic. Because insects typically have to consume the oil, it’s safe for pollinators like bees and butterflies, who won’t be eating the leaves and destroying the plant. Neem oil may be slightly irritating to the eyes and skin, so use basic precautions during applications and wash any fruits and vegetables thoroughly. Pesticides in general, even natural ones, should be as limited as possible, and you won’t need a heavy amount of neem oil when using it as a preventative.

Neem oil is toxic to fish and aquatic animals, but azadirachtin only has a half-life between a few hours and four days in water. It has the longest half-life in soil, where it may last up to 44 days. Generally speaking, it is highly biodegradable and doesn’t leave a lasting footprint on the environment.

Application Methods

You’ll have a few application options for neem oil. Depending on your needs and the kind of plants you’re treating, one may work better than the other.

  • Spray – Neem oil is available in concentrate formulas. To use the oil concentrate, follow the directions and mix it with the appropriate amount of water. As suggested above, test one small part or leaf of the plant before spraying the entire thing down. It’s also best to apply the oil on plants in indirect light to cut down on the chances of burning.
  • Soil Drench – With a soil drench, neem oil gets diluted with water and poured into the soil. Plant roots drink up the mixture and use it to protect themselves.

Final Thoughts

Neem oil is a handy tool to keep around whether you’re growing an outdoor garden or tending to houseplants. It gives you a natural way of protecting your beloved plants without turning to a bottle of chemical pesticide.

If you’re interested in more sustainable gardening and homesteading tips, join the Stoney Creek Farm family! You can find us across a few social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, as well as making helpful videos over on YouTube. Give us a follow and keep the gardening tips coming your way.



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